JMC 3023: Class tools tutorial

Where we’ll work

Google Drive

We will write our stories or scripts in Google docs, set the share settings to “CAN EDIT” and then share them in a public folder for peer and instructor editing. If the folder is being wonky, also share the file via email. Edit by leaving comments, questions and suggestions as you see fit.

Every piece can be improved. Be constructive. Be real. But don’t be a jerk.

Remember, part of your participation grade will account for how engaged you are in providing genuine feedback to help your peers succeed.

Doodle polls

I’ve set these up for each individual writing conference in my office or via Zoom. Look for them on each assignment post. Sign up to schedule when you want to meet with me to discuss your story. Do so as we progress through the semester, or sign up for your preferred time now for all the assignments. It’s first come, first served.

Questions on any of these? Let me know.

JMC 3023: Essay assignment

Goal

Explore a landmark moment, experience or influence that informs who you are or aspire to be.

Key dates

  • Monday, Aug. 31: Launch + be familiar with reading list
  • Wednesday, Sept. 2: Individual story conferences (Sign up)
  • Monday, Sept. 7: Labor Day, no class
  • Wednesday Sept. 9: Peer-review day; draft shared via Google Drive
  • Wednesday, Sept. 16: Final version turned in, in both written and podcast format

Reading list

For each style of feature I will ask you to complete I will provide some examples that we can discuss in class to help jog your creative muscles and that you can refer to for inspiration while you work on yours. Please read, listen or watch at least three of them — some by the pros, some by the students — before we launch each segment.

The assignment

A poorly done essay is a trite waste of time. When done well, however, this style of writing can be among the most resonant and transcendent types of professional work, and be devoured by audiences accordingly. Two common elements of this style of writing when done well: Great storytelling rooted in universal themes and transformational moments.

You will

  • Write a minimum 750-word (digital) or 3-minute package (broadcast) piece that
  • Explores a landmark moment, experience or influence that informs who you are today or aspire to be in the future…
  • Is unflinching in its critical self-evaluation…
  • And is relatable to a clearly defined audience.

You will not

  • Write a journal entry that lacks appeal to a broad audience
  • Write an autobiography (these bore even your parents)

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Topic | 45 percent
    • Clearly informs who the writer is or aspires to become
    • Explored in significant depth
    • Has a universal theme or transformational moment, making it relatable to a broad audience
  • Writing | 45 percent
    • Meets the word-count or script-length minimum
    • Uses clear, conversational language
    • Unflinching in critical self-evaluation
    • Does not resort to journal-like style or autobiographical tendencies
  • Formats |10 percent
    • Turn in both a written version and a podcast version
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Spelling: -10 points
    • Grammar, punctuation, AP style: -1 point each

JMC 3023: Human interest assignment

Goal

Describe a real adventure, experience, project, crisis or quest involving people.

Key dates

  • Monday, Oct. 19: Launch + be familiar with reading list
  • Wednesday, Oct. 21: Individual story-selection and pre-reporting conferences
  • Monday, Nov. 2: Draft posted to Google Drive; peer-review day
  • Wednesday, Nov. 4: Individual mid-point story conferences
  • Wednesday, Nov. 11: Final version turned in

Reading list

For each style of feature I will ask you to complete I will provide some examples that we can discuss in class to help jog your creative muscles and that you can refer to for inspiration while you work on yours. Please read, listen or watch at least three of them — some by the pros, some by the students — before we launch each segment.

The assignment

A human-interest piece, in the words of a previous instructor of this course, describes a real adventure, experience, project, crisis or quest involving people. For our purposes, narrow your focus to a central character or small group of people working together. Also, consider using a narrative story-telling format grounded in a specific time and place and proceeding chronologically.

You will

  • Write a 1,000-word (digital) or 4-minute package (broadcast) piece that…
  • Appeals to an audience on an emotional and/or dramatic level…
  • Is fully-developed in examining the subject in depth via research and at least three sources (more may be necessary to be successful)…
  • And is relatable to a clearly defined audience.

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Topic | 50 percent
    • Clearly appeals to an audience on an emotional and/or dramatic level
    • Is explored in significant depth via research and at least three sources (more may be necessary to be successful)
    • Is relatable to a broad audience
  • Writing | 50 percent
    • Meets the word-count or script-length minimum
    • Uses clear, conversational language
    • Fully examines the subject
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Spelling: -10 points
    • Grammar, punctuation, AP style: -1 point each

JMC 3023: Story behind the story assignment

Goal

Better understanding the people and processes behind great work, as well as an opportunity to make a new contact in the business.

Key dates

  • Monday, Aug. 24: Launch assignment and set into groups by due date
  • Monday, Sept. 14: Round 1 due (Kaylin Carpenter, Miranda Foster, Jett Johnson, Steven Plaisance)
  • Monday, Oct. 12: Round 2 due (Blake Douglas, Hogan Gore, Jonathan Kyncl, Parker Primrose)
  • Monday, Nov. 9: Round 3 due (Chandler Engelbrecht, Christian Hans, KaraLee Langford, Vic Reynolds, Mary Catherine Wells)
  • Monday, Dec 7: Round 4 due (Ari Fife, Jordan Hayden, Sydnee Lyons, Cassandra Snow)

The assignment

You will research and interview one of your favorite writers to understand the story behind a great story.

Due the Monday of your turn: An approximately 10-15 minute podcast directing us to the piece in question, and edited into a compelling conversation that covers the writer’s path to their current job, the backstory to the piece, how and why they elected to write it that way and any other key takeaways that could apply to our work in this course.

In class: Each student will lead an approximately 15-minute discussion on his or her piece.

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Interview and podcast | 50 percent
    • Reached reporter of feature story and interviewed them in significant depth
    • Asked compelling and probing questions that unearthed challenges of the particular story as well as the reporter’s writing process
    • Asked questions about any reactions to the story from sources or public
    • Podcast minimum is 10 minutes
  • Presentation and discussion | 50 percent
    • Leads a 10-minute recap of the story, its backstory and key takeaways that could apply to our work
    • Covers the reporter’s career experience and advice
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Miss deadline: -Letter grade

JMC 3023: Pitch letter, résumé assignment

Key dates

  • Monday, Oct. 26: Launch
  • Monday, Nov. 16: Draft of both due via email
  • Monday, Nov. 30: Final version of both due via email

The assignment

Pretty straight forward. Because we want this class to have real-world applications, this assignment is simply your résumé — once in draft form, once in final form — along with a three-paragraph pitch email that explains why a publication should be interested in one of the pieces you’re writing in this class. I like Jason Fagone’s advice on the pitch email and recommend you follow it. If you’d like one example of a résumé, here’s mine.

Three short paragraphs will do it.

First paragraph: Hi, I’m so and so, and I have an idea I think would work well for you.

Second paragraph: Here is the idea, briefly, and here is why I am the appropriate person to write it.

Third paragraph: I’m happy to tell you more if the idea intrigues you. A bit more about me: [links to clips, or in the absence of clips, a tiny bio].

(After I posted this, I asked for editors to weigh in on Twitter, and a few made this important point: these three paragraphs should convey that you’ve read the publication you’re pitching and that you know what sorts of stories they need. The pitch has to be tailored to them. Editors don’t like it if they sense that the idea is generic and could be pitched anywhere. As an editor from Slate put it, the pitch should “include a real sense that you understand how the piece would fit into MY magazine and not some other magazine.”)

Rubric (250 points total)

  • Résumé | 50 percent
    • One page, written for media jobs
    • Reverse chronological timeline
    • Include work experience, education, honors and references
  • Pitch email| 50 percent
    • 500-word maximum
    • Uses clear, conversational language
    • Demonstrates knowledge, understanding of target publication
  • Deductions
    • Fact errors: -50 percent
    • Spelling: -10 points
    • Grammar, punctuation, AP style: -1 point each